We gave it a B+
Something monumental happened on this week’s Saturday Night Live: The show was actually live. For the first time in 42 seasons, the whole country got to experience the monologues, sketches, and actors breaking character all at once. The expectations were high, and the show delivered, putting together a consistently entertaining episode, albeit one that often reduced the cast to glorified background performers.
RELATED: McCarthy Brings ‘Spicey’ Back to SNL for Easter
That trend started from the jump, as both host Jimmy Fallon and Alec Baldwin were featured in the cold open. Unsurprisingly, things kicked off with Donald Trump reflecting on his first 100 days in office, which he’s shocked to learn isn’t the end of his presidency. While most of his business has taken place at Mar-a-Lago, the White House is home to Trump’s next big decision: firing either Steve Bannon or Jared Kushner. Fallon made a pre-monologue appearance as the always suave — but mute — Kush, continuing the worrisome shift of giving possibly crucial political roles to non-cast members.
Accustomed to doing monologues full of “jokes” five nights a week, Fallon’s SNL monologue turned into a dance party, with the host singing David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” through Studio 8H, thus beginning the debut episode of Jimmy Sings Live.
Best Sketch: “Easter Message from Sean Spicer”
And live from Los Angeles, it’s Melissa McCarthy as Sean Spicer in an Easter Bunny suit. In this edition of McCarthy as the White House Press Secretary, Spicer is put in the place he’s least comfortable (behind the podium) in his most comfortable suit (bunny). Bringing Spicer’s past as the White House Easter Bunny into the equation only adds to the absurd brilliance of McCarthy’s performance. “Spicey finally made a mistake,” she opened as Spicer, referencing his widely criticized Tuesday press briefing. Spicer’s efforts to apologize for his insensitive Holocaust comments don’t work out too well. “Fool me once, shame on me; fool me twice, shame on Jews,” McCarthy-as-Spicer said between repeated mentions of Hitler. The whole sketch was great, but McCarthy had me at four words: “Bazooka Phylicia Ahmad Rashad.”
Worst Sketch: “Civil War Soldiers”
EXT: 30 Rockefeller Plaza
INT: Saturday Night Live pitch meeting. After an all-nighter, the group of talented writers and performers gather with a laundry list of ideas that will utilize the strengths of the cast. In walks Jimmy Fallon.
“I’m not sure if you guys know, but I like to sing,” he opens. “So we’re going to do that… a lot.”
Best Short: “Basketball Scene”
As a Boston Red Sox fan, I have a complicated history with Fallon and sports movies. So I was worried he’d also ruin basketball for me, but I was in for a pleasant surprise. I must confess: I’m a sucker for terrible basketball in film. Philip Seymour Hoffman yelling “Rain dance” as he takes a terrible shot in Along Came Polly is my everything. Watching Fallon and Mikey Day hugging and falling all over the court also left me sad that we will never see Elijah in his White Men Can’t Jump musical — unless that is what the whole Girls series finale is about (fingers crossed).
Weekend Update Highlights
Between the failed missile launch in North Korea, the wild incident with United Airlines, and the bombings in Syria, it was an eventful news week. While Colin Jost and Michael Che touched on all of those topics, they saved the best for… cake. During an interview discussing the bombings in Syria, Trump couldn’t help but give a special shoutout to the “most beautiful” chocolate cake “that you’ve ever seen.” Che took issue with this: “First of all, you don’t know what cakes I’ve seen.” Thankfully, the cake talk didn’t end there. “Maybe you should take it easy on the cake, you’ve already got a butt like an Atlanta stripper,” he joked, followed by a clip of the president mistaking Syria for Iraq. “Trump runs the country like Homer Simpson runs the power plant. We’re asking about missile strikes and he’s thinking, ‘Mmm, cake.'”
Fallon didn’t return to the Weekend Update desk, but two characters did make reappearances: Vanessa Bayer as Jacob the Bar Mitzvah Boy and Kyle Mooney as stand-up comic Bruce Chandling. As usual, the comedian’s jokes began intentionally bad before veering down a dark path. “I guess, the real joke here… is me,” he somberly said. Having gained the sympathy of Che and the audience, Chandling circles back to his terrible jokes for his big punchline. While the character and bit shouldn’t work, Mooney somehow squeezes some laughs out of it.
Best Use of Rachel Dratch: “Sully & Denise”
If there had been a way to wager on who Fallon would bring along as a surprise guest, my life savings would have gone on Justin Timberlake. Not sure if you guys know, but they’re pals. Instead, we got a delightful surprise with an appearance from Dratch, as the duo revived Pat and Denise Sullivan, their Boston-accented love birds.
Best Musical Moment: “Sign of the Times”
I’m not the one to ask about members of beloved boy bands going solo, considering how much JC Chasez stock I was buying 15 years ago. Yet I will say, Harry Styles practically stole the show. Between his Mick Jagger impression and musical performances, he more than earned a chance to return in the future as host and musical guest — although Twitter’s reaction to him might have been even more fascinating to watch than anything he did.
Cast MVP: Kenan Thompson
Wait, was the cast in this episode? To no complaint from the internet (see above), Styles seemed to get more time in sketches than anybody not named Fallon. I’m going to go with Thompson this week for his performance in “Celebrity Family Feud.” He’s mastered playing Steve Harvey, but between the vamping he had to do to accommodate Fallon rushing back and forth for Double Travolta and his introductions of the celebrities, Thompson was the highlight of a strong sketch. “You look like a witch cursed you not to smile but you’re trying anyway,” he cracks about McKinnon’s Kristen Stewart. Thompson is often overlooked due to his longevity, so here’s some much-deserved recognition.